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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major K216 (1775), Allegro, Adagio, Rondeau: Allegro
Violin Masterclass: Maxim Vengerov (violin), Márta Déak (violin student), Tadashi Imai (piano) [48.00]
rec. live, Royal Academy of Music, London, 2007
Documentary filmed, produced and directed by the Masterclass Media Foundation
Picture format: NTSC/Colour/ 16.9
Sound format: Stereo
Languages: English only; no notebook
MMF 005 [48.00]
Experience Classicsonline

This DVD, as indicated on the box, is a violin masterclass. The master here is Maxim Vengerov and the student a young lady by the name of Márta Déak, accompanied on the piano by Tadashi Imai. We watch and hear the young violinist play an extract of the first movement, Allegro, from Mozart’s third violin concerto, which lasts approximately ten minutes and then we get to witness Vengerov working with her on the interpretation of this same movement.

While Ms Déak is playing, the camera is mostly fixed on her though it occasionally moves to Vengerov, sitting by the piano, with a serious demeanour. There are other students in the room, though the viewer does not see most of them as the camera does not move around to show us the audience. Vengerov listens attentively and intently to Ms Déak’s playing but until the young violinist concludes her short performance, it is difficult to read his thoughts.

As Ms Déak finishes, Vengerov immediately springs up with a smile and, as any good teacher, he compliments her performance, assuring her he believes she will become an excellent violinist. Only then, does he start explaining how he thinks that she can improve, however never forgetting to point out that interpretations are personal and she may prefer a different one to his own.

Vengerov explains the fact that Mozart had a strong sense of drama, meaning the stage. His works for solo instruments should according to the master violinist always be approached as an opera and the performer should try and express that dramatic feeling and bring the instrument to sing. To better demonstrate what he means, Vengerov bursts into song, expressively imitating an opera singer. He dances and sings in a lively, vivacious manner, always keeping a sense of fun but taking it seriously and making the point that what the composer wrote should never be forgotten.

Throughout the lesson, Vengerov is demanding but considerate and also spontaneous. He has a good sense of humour and often makes the girl and the audience smile. From this point of view, this DVD is highly entertaining. It is a joy to watch Vengerov bounce to the sound of his own voice, illustrating the way the music should be interpreted and highlighting where young Ms Déak is still missing the point. On rare occasions, he grabs his own violin and exemplifies on the spot what he would like her to do.

Diligently, the young Márta Déak tries hard. She tirelessly repeats time after time, each note, each chord, the entrance, the theme and so on, attempting to reproduce on the violin Vengerov’s instructions. She listens attentively, assimilating every word he says and generally agrees, seldom having the courage to tell him she prefers her own interpretation in some particular parts. At first, Ms Déak is obviously flattered to have a masterclass with a violinist of Maxim Vengerov’s stature but it is equally obvious that she is nervous. However, as the lesson progresses, she appears to be getting slightly frustrated, perhaps even annoyed at the fact that he is seldom completely satisfied and happy with her performance. I had the impression that towards the end of the lesson Ms Déak was actually trying hard to control some growing irritation but she does manage to keep her composure. In the end, it appeared to me that she lets out a gentle sigh of relief though she also seems genuinely happy when Vengerov pays her a final compliment on her diligence and determination, then shakes her hand and declares he enjoyed working with her.

From an educational point of view, this DVD is a valuable asset and will make good supporting material to music teachers in general and violin teachers in particular. It is also a good document on Vengerov’s own interpretation of arguably Mozart’s greatest violin concerto. On the other hand, from the perspective of entertainment, it lets one down a little. Maxim Vengerov is himself entertaining enough. His explanations, personal interpretation and the unique vivid manner in which he conveys them to the students are always watchable, at times even fascinating, as they give one an insight into his colourful personality. However, I must say that the continuous repetitions become slightly boring after a while. Personally, I was also disappointed that the piece is not performed in full. It does make sense from an educational perspective to have the student, young Ms Márta Déak, performing just an extract from the first movement of Mozart’s third violin concerto and then watch how Vengerov works with her on this particular movement, however it would have been very interesting and also educational to follow the masterclass with a full performance of the piece, preferably by the master himself.

For me, the greatest achievement of this DVD is that it fully illustrates the difficulty of becoming a concert violinist and how much hard work and effort are involved, demonstrating these are as important as natural talent. I would strongly recommend it for teachers, aspiring musicians in general and violinists in particular. With the full performance of the piece, I believe however that the DVD would have gained a different dimension and the Masterclass Media Foundation, even though they are a non-profit organisation, would surely have earned some extra funds to support the worthy work they do.

Margarida Mota-Bull



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